Many people say that women can be deacons but not elders. There is clear scriptural precedent for women as deacons. For example, in Romans 16:1 the word used to describe Phoebe is diakonon (sometimes translated servant).
One of the arguments used to say that women cannot be elders is that the qualifications for being an elder includes being the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:1). A woman cannot have a wife–therefore she cannot be an elder.
However, one of the qualifications for deacons is that they, too, are to be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:12).
Follow the logic. Deacons have to be the husband of one wife, and we know that there are female deacons. Elders also have to the be the husband of one wife. Why should there not be female elders too?
First Timothy 3:11 says, “let the wives (women) also be temperate… faithful.” This verse is often applied to female deacons. Why not to female elders too.
(Thank you to Neil Cole for this idea)
The problem with words is that they change in meaning over the years. I would love for the word,"church," to never be used because the word itself conjures up a building with a spire, or a denomination, or a meeting. But the word is Scriptural, and we can learn to use it rightly.
The same is true with words like elders and deacons. The words are Scriptural, but their meaning has become obscured by centuries of tradition.
The word for elder, "presbuteros" literally means an older person, someone who is more mature. He keeps an eye on (oversees) what is going on in the churches. The word for deacon, "diakonos" means servant.
The question sometimes comes up, "Should every simple/organic church have elders and deacons?" There are different opinions on this. My personal belief is that these are regional functions; that a network of churches or the church within a city will have elders.Each individual house church has spiritual parents to look after it.
My reason for this belief about elders is that in Titus 1:5, Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders in every city. The passage in Acts 14:20-24 where Paul and Barnabas appoint elders in every church is actually in the context of them visiting several cities (verse 20), presumable each with a city church, perhaps made up of several individual house churches. Every other reference to elders is within the context of a city (Jerusalem, Philippi, Ephesus).
We personally do not appoint elders. We may be wrong in this attitude, and the Lord is certainly leading others differently, but we suspect that one day, a true city church will arise that breaks down the barriers that we Christians have erected to separate ourselves from each other. Then elders and deacons will come into their own.
What do you think?